MIAMI — The Boston Celtics know the formula. They believe their defense, as has been the case time and time again in these playoffs, will eventually wear teams down.
Difficult to argue.
Jaylen Brown scored 25 points, Jayson Tatum added 22 and the Celtics are now one win away from the NBA Finals. They ran away after halftime to beat the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference title series.
“I think the mental stress and strain that we put on some teams with our defense worked and got us through the playoffs at times,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.
Al Horford had 16 points and Derrick White added 14 for the Celtics. Tatum finished with 12 rebounds and nine assists.
Bam Adebayo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat, who shot 32% in the game — after shooting 33% in Boston’s 20-point Game 4 win. Gabe Vincent added 15, Jimmy Butler had 13 and Duncan Robinson scored 11 for Miami.
The Heat was 7 for 45 from 3-point range. They played without the injured Tyler Herro (groin), and several Miami players were questionable entering the day for a variety of ailments.
“We’re not going to make any kind of deviation or any kind of apology,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Boston beat us tonight. And let’s be clear on that. There are guys who are far from 100% on both sides.
Game 6 takes place in Boston on Friday night, where a pair of trophies bearing the names of Celtics legends will be waiting for you. The Bob Cousy Trophy goes to the Eastern champions, the Larry Bird Trophy to the Eastern Finals MVP, and the Celtics are one win away from hoisting them.
“We have the opportunity to do something special with this band,” Brown said. “Let’s not take this for granted.”
This series has seen massive swings – a 44-14 run at Miami in Game 1, a 60-21 run at Boston in Game 2, a 46-20 run at Miami to open Game 3 followed by a 57-33 run at Boston in the same game. , and a 26-4 push from the Celtics to open Game 4.
The run in Game 5 was just as important.
The score on a 6 1/2 minute stretch of the second half: Celtics 24, Heat 2. The turnaround was 59-58 Boston to 83-60 Boston.
“In the first half it was tough because we weren’t taking shots and turning the ball over,” Horford said. “But the key for us was to keep doing what we were doing in defense and then in attack to play the way we play. And finally, we managed to make it work.
Boston beat Miami 32-16 in the third quarter, keeping the Heat on 17% shooting. The margin was just 11 at the time – but a 14-2 push was how Boston opened the fourth quarter, with Brown capping the flurry by making three 3-pointers in the space of 2 1/2 minutes, and the lead was 23 .
Brown then sealed things with a dunk in the lane with 5:19 to go, the lead was 18 at that point and the clock was on for Boston.
“We are still lined up,” Adebayo said. “We still have to play these games. We always want to win.
The Celtics haven’t reached the NBA Finals since 2010. There have been four trips to the Eastern Finals since then, with two losses in Miami and two in Cleveland. There were also two chances like the one awaiting Friday – Game 6 in 2012 against the Heat and Game 7 in 2018 against the Cavaliers – when the Celtics had a chance to win the conference title simply by winning a game at home. .
They’ve lost both, with LeBron James serving as the official thwarter both times, with 45 points to save Miami in the 2012 game and 35 to lift Cleveland in the 2018 clincher.
He won’t be in the Celtics’ way this time.
Miami will need someone to provide some semblance of impersonation.
“We know what we are capable of,” insisted Butler.
The attack failed in the first half. Miami led 19-17 after one and 42-37 at the break. Tatum was 1 of 9 at intermission, Butler 2 of 8, and the teams combined to shoot 37.8 percent from the field and 21.6 percent from 3-point range.
Miami somehow cooled off to start the second half. The Celtics didn’t.
The Heat missed their first nine shots from the field after the break, dropping nothing until Butler fended off the contact and scored on a drive that put Miami up 49-48 with 6:53 left in the third. .
But soon, the Celtics had control. From the game. And the series.
“If you want to break through and get a ticket to the final, you’re going to have to do some ridiculously difficult things,” Spoelstra said.
Celtics: Boston is now 42-7 this season holding teams to 105 points or less. … Marcus Smart tested his sprained ankle before the game, declared himself ready to go and had just five points, but the Celtics edged the Heat by 13 points in nearly 24 minutes. … White and Robert Williams III were a combined 7 for 8 in the first half, while the rest of their teammates were a combined 6 for 26.
Heat: Max Strus was 0 of 9, Kyle Lowry was 0 of 6 and the Heat’s starting guards are a combined 1 of 28 in their last two games. Wednesday’s 0 for 15 was the worst in the playoffs for a starting backcourt since the NBA began tracking starters in 1970. … It was the third-lowest point total of the season for the Heat (78 vs Boston Nov 4, 79 vs Philadelphia May 6).
Game 6 will be the 140th playoff game for Horford. No one has gone to more postseason contests without appearing in the NBA Finals — something he and the Celtics could change with one more win over Miami.
It was the 14th time in the last 19 games of these playoffs where the final margin was at least 10 points.
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